Fire commissioners compounding bad decision | Letter

Several months ago, the Port of Friday Harbor and the San Juan Island Fire District 3 each faced a vacant Commissioner’s seat and each needed to make a temporary appointment. The Port made the intelligent and responsible decision not to appoint anyone who had filed to run for their seat because doing so would confer an unfair advantage. And the Port also agreed to postpone until after the November election any major non-emergency decisions.

The Fire Commissioners made a much less responsible decision. They appointed to the vacancy one of the two candidates for the elected position. That of course gives him an unfair advantage.

Now the fire commissioners are planning to compound their bad decision. They’ve decided to do everything except make the actual appointment of a new chief before the November election. Anyone who’s ever been involved in the appointment or hiring of a public official knows that the multiple steps leading up to the hiring are an essential part of this critical process. The final decision is heavily influenced by the preceding steps and decisions. And the person pushing the hardest in this case to get it done is the unelected temporary appointee. He seems not to grasp how inappropriate that is.

To make matters worse, this would mean that the outgoing chief, who has created so much community turmoil over the last four years, will have a significant hand in selecting his own replacement. The last thing the taxpayers need is his heavy hand in that hiring process.

The fire commissioners need to follow the lead of the port commissioners, who’ve demonstrated what it means to be responsible public servants. The fire commissioners need to immediately call a halt to the entire hiring process until the newly elected commissioner takes his seat in November. They should also, like the port commissioners, put off any major non-emergency decisions until that time. Anything short of that is unacceptable.

Richard Grout

San Juan Island